St. Lucia Pudding (Served on Santa Lucia Day, December 13th)

4 cups wheat berries, soaked in water overnight
8 cups whole milk
2 cups sugar
8 tablespoons Argo cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt (Kosher recommended)
1 teaspoon fresh ground cinnamon
1 lg. Hershey's Milk Chocolate with almonds candy bar, chopped into bite size pieces


1. Drain wheat berries, and add them to a fresh pot of water bring to a boil and cook for 20-25 min. Drain and set aside.
2. Mix milk, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla and cinnamon into a large pot. Over medium heat, continuously stir until it thickens and comes to a boil, scrapping the bottom of the pan making sure it doesn't stick or burn.
3. Remove from heat, add 3 cups of cooked and cooled wheat berries to pudding and mix well.
4. Pour into large platter let cool for 5- 10 minutes on countertop, and then sprinkle with chocolate pieces, dusting with 2 tablespoons of fresh ground cinnamon.

Recipe courtesy of Felicia (Ciaramitaro) Mohan, 2010.

Santa Lucia Day, a traditional Sicilian holiday that many celebrate, is December 13th. To Felicia (Ciaramitaro) Mohan and many other Sicilians it is remembered as a day when her grandmother invited all of the kids to her house to eat the large pan of pudding simultaneously in an "eating race."

Catholic traditions tell the legend of how there was a great hunger in Syracuse, Sicily, and the town's people had gathered in the cathedral on her feast day, December 13th, to pray, and two ships loaded with wheat arrived, with her at the helm of one, dressed in white, with a halo of candles on her head. This is the explanation given for the cucci, or cooked wheat, which is an ingredient in all her festival's foods. Cuccia, a kind of sweet porridge is made with wheat berries, chocolate, sugar and milk. Each family has their own versions of this dish.

For Felicia's grandmother's version, additional ingredients of cornstarch, vanilla, salt and fresh ground cinnamon are added. She strongly recommends that it is worthwhile to go to a specialty spice store and find the Italian cinnamon sticks and grind them yourself.

Santa Lucia day is December 13. It's a holiday, a traditional day, that Sicilian families celebrate. I grew up in my home having Santa Lucia pudding races. My grandmother Felicia would invite all seven of her grandchildren over, and we would gather around the table with these huge platters of this [SICILIAN], otherwise known as [SICILIAN] pudding, and have a race.

It's memories that I will cherish forever. And it's a tradition that I've passed on to my cousin's children and to my very own children. We gather each year on December 13 and do the very same thing-- have a [SICILIAN] pudding race.

So the first thing you're going to do is you're going to have to find wheat berry. And you're going to soak it in a pan about this size. Last night I soaked five cups of [SICILIAN], filled the pan with water, covered it, and just left it on my stove-- not turned on, just left it on stove overnight. In the morning you will find, is it blows up a little bit plump.

The water is going to be very cloudy. The next thing you need to do is strain the [SICILIAN] and place fresh water inside the pan. You're going to bring this to a boil on your stove for 25 minutes. What you will get after you boil it is something that looks exactly like this. This is [SICILIAN], all ready to be eaten.

So, into the pan we're going to add our eight cups of whole milk, two cups of regular sugar, right into the pan. Now this is something that the kids can be involved in. Eight tablespoons of corn starch, and that's just going to go right in.

We're going to add one teaspoon of the vanilla. I like to use real vanilla, not imitation vanilla, but if you only have imitation, that's totally fine. One teaspoon of salt, and this is kosher salt.

Now this is the special, special ingredient. You can use regular cinnamon that you buy at your local grocery store, but I'm telling you, it is worth the trouble to hunt this special cinnamon down. Like I said, in Sicilian, it's called [SICILIAN]. As you can see it looks very much like a cinnamon stick that you buy in the grocery store.

The difference is it looks like shards of wood, like a stick. They're very fragile. So what you're going to do is get your fresh [SICILIAN] sticks. You can use a coffee grinder. Now, this coffee grinder I really use just for spices. But if you have one that you use for coffee, it's not a problem. Just wipe down the inside with the damp towel, dry it off. You just don't want the coffee flavor to get in there.

Get your cinnamon sticks. And you're going to crack them. See how they just break up really easy? You could never do this with a cinnamon stick bought in your local grocery store. You'll find it in an Italian variety store that sells all those specialty items.

So I just break up two or three sticks into your grinder. Give it a couple of pulses. And what you will end up with is this. It is so fragrant. I wish that you could smell this. Once you try it, you will never want to use regular cinnamon in any of your recipes.

We are going to use one teaspoon, right into our mixture of milk, and sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla, and salt. We're going to bring this over to the stove. We're going to bring it to a boil. We're going to continuously stir this. It'll get nice and thick.

You will see it will leave a ribbon effect. That's when you know it's done. You really want to work the bottom of the pan with a spoon. I like to use a metal spoon. You can use a wooden spoon. I prefer in doing this using a metal spoon. You really can feel the bottom of the pan scraping. You don't want anything to stick.

Our pudding is nice and thick. You can see we got the right consistency. We've stirred continuously the whole time so it won't stick on the bottom.

Some people like a lot of [SICILIAN] in their pudding. Some people like very little. My family happens to like a lot. So I'm going to put about two cups to two and a half cups of this cooked [SICILIAN] into the pudding.

Give it a stir. Now this pudding is really hot, so don't burn yourself. Be very careful. I'm going to break up any lumps of [SICILIAN] with the backside of your spoon. Oh, it smells so good I can smell the [SICILIAN].

OK. Now we're ready to pour into our platter. Like I said, my grandmother always had pudding races. They were called [SICILIAN] races.

So Santa Lucia day every December 13, she would pour this [SICILIAN] pudding onto a platter, and all the children would sit around with a spoon and race to see who could get to the middle to be the winner of the year. So we continue that tradition. I'm going to show you how I serve it to my family.

Being very careful, we're just going to pour it right onto the platter, just like that. And to this platter, we are going to sprinkle some fresh [SICILIAN] again on top. Now this is all to your taste. You can put a lot or a little. Just sprinkle it on. Smells so good.

And here I have a Hershey's chocolate bar with almonds, the large size cut into chunk-size pieces. And we sprinkle that on top. Some families put lemon peel, a citrus fruit in their [SICILIAN] and I'm sure that that is lovely and tastes wonderful.

But in our family, this is our tradition, to serve it with fresh [SICILIAN] and chocolate. Now at this point, you can serve it just as nice and warm. You can put it into the refrigerator and wait for your guests to come over, or your family, as mine does, and have a pudding race.

So here I have it plated in little pedestal dessert dish. I have to give it a taste. It smells so good. Mm. It tastes so good. So warm. So creamy.

The chocolate as just enough. The fresh [SICILIAN] goes without saying. It's out of this world. Definitely need to try this. If you'd like, have the pudding race like my family does, or serve it in a nice little pedestal dish, dessert dish of your choice and enjoy. Happy Santa Lucia day.

Saint Lucia Day Pudding
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